BACKGROUND: Socioeconomic development has been considered as a solution to the problem of sex differentials at birth and under-five mortality. This paper analyses longitudinal data from the Ballabgarh Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) site in north India to check its veracity.
METHODS: A cohort of children born between 1 January 2006 and 31 December 2011 at Ballabgarh HDSS were followed till death, emigration, 3 years of age or end of the study. Socioeconomic status (SES) was measured by caste, parental combined years of schooling and wealth index and divided into low, mid and high strata for each of them. Sex ratio at birth (SRB) was reported as the number of girls per 1000 boys. The Kaplan-Meier survival curves were drawn and a Cox Proportional HR of girls over boys was estimated.
RESULTS: A total of 12 517 native born children (25 797 child years) were enrolled of which 710 died (death rate of 56.7/1000-live births and 27.5/1000 child-years. Socioeconomically advantaged children had significantly lower death rates. The SRB (10-16% lower) and neonatal death rate were consistently adverse for girls in the advantaged groups by all the three indicators of SES. The first month survival rates were better for girls in the lower SES categories (significant only in caste (HR 0.58; 0.37 to 0.91). High SES categories consistently showed adverse survival rates for girls (HR of 1.22 to 1.59).
CONCLUSIONS: Better socioeconomic situation worsened the sex differentials, especially at birth. Therefore, specific interventions targeting gender issues are required, at least as a short-term measure.
BMJ Publishing Group , 2013. Vol. 67, no 5, 419-426 p.